A recent House of Lords report provides clues on how to fill the strategic voidby Stephen Wright / January 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
The government’s idea of “Global Britain” as the concept for UK foreign policy after Brexit has so far amounted more to a slogan than to a strategy. The new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has made speeches about it, most recently in Singapore, but he has only added to the fog by inventing a further slogan—Britain as the “invisible chain”—without adding much in the way of strategy.
However, the recent report of the House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations entitled “UK Foreign Policy in a Shifting World Order” goes quite some way towards filling the void. It puts forward a solid analysis of the many forces of change that are now affecting international relations, and makes many helpful recommendations on how UK foreign policy should respond to them. As well as covering the obvious foreign policy topics such as the US, Russia, China, India, the major international institutions such as the UN, NATO and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, the report also makes a serious attempt to analyse the technological challenges to international relations. The report makes specific recommendations for British policy towards all of these issues. And it puts forward some fundamental principles for policy such as the importance of the UK continuing to uphold the rules-based international order and the rule of law, human and civil rights and western democratic values.
Nevertheless, the Lords’ report falls short of offering a full prescription for a “Global Britain” strategy in two main ways. First, the report avoids any analysis of the implications of Brexit for UK foreign policy and, presumably for the same reason, also avoids any analysis of the political shifts taking place in Europe, such as the widening struggle between the proponents of pro-European liberalism and the growing numbers of practitioners of populist nationalism. In short, the report has nothing to say about future UK policy towards our closest neighbours and most like-minded partners.
But the first priority for the Global Britain strategy must surely be to restore trust and influence with these European partners. In the early years after Brexit we shall need to go out of our way to show EU countries that we share their problems—migration, global warming, Russian pressure on Eastern Europe—and are ready to contribute to dealing with them, whether on the ground, in…